Commentary on the 2020 new car transaction data from the SMMT
Ian Plummer, Auto Trader’s Commercial Director, says: “The automotive industry had a lot thrown at last year, with Covid restrictions closing showrooms, trading tariffs in question as Brexit loomed, and with the government changing the goalposts again on the sale of new ICE vehicles, it’s not surprising that new car sales have taken a hit.
“There have however been some bright spots as we’ve seen a healthy rise in the number of EVs on our roads. With consumer interest in greener technologies increasing, coupled with a plethora of new models now available, the green transition has certainly begun. If we were to see this continued level of uptake in EVs then we anticipate that sales of new EVs and plug in hybrids will overtake diesel cars in 2021, and then pure EVs will overtake those of their internal combustion engine counterparts in 2026.
“The industry, with everything that it has had to deal with in the year, has also responded and adapted remarkably quickly. We’ve seen retailers and manufacturers begin to shift their selling methods, with many launching new online elements of the car buying journey, enabling them to operate within the confines of click and collect and home delivery. Being able to buy a car fully online or at least do more elements of the journey online was always coming, but the pandemic and the restrictions that its brought have only accelerated both the technology required to fulfil these services and consumer adoption of these services. This is a trend that’s set to continue into this year.
“As we look ahead to 2021, notwithstanding negative dents to sales from the current and any further national lockdowns, data suggests that sales will bounce back to c.2 million levels. Although not as high as we saw in 2019, we certainly aren’t expecting levels to dip down to what we saw during the global financial crisis. Consumer confidence levels, historically the key driver of the new car market, remain relatively strong as does the availability of good credit options, which bode well for the new car market.”